The flagship product of AutoDesk for 2D CAD has new looks and some smart new features. Faster file opening from the network, smaller file sizes and a revamp of the DWG file format are some of the highlights. Let's get into the details of the same.
AutoCAD now does not run on Windows 9x and ME. Also the DWG format does not support anything lower than AutoCAD 2000. The files made in AutoCAD 2004 can't be opened by AutoCAD R14 or below, but the files can be saved in AutoCAD R12 DWF format as a workaround. This change in format will also affect third-party products available for the same. It will take some time for all the third party developers to upgrade to this format. The most recent problem we faced was with Adobe Acrobat 6.0, which supports PDF conversion from CAD files with layers but, this feature is not supported in AutoCAD 2004.
Though the file format is totally new, the migration may not be that difficult. This release can be installed with your already installed release of AutoCAD, making migration to the new product much easier. You can only upgrade from AutoCAD 2000. For lower versions, you'll need a new commercial copy.
Though the face of AutoCAD interface has got major facelifts for the good, the soul remains the same. The interface and the workflow is still predominantly command line based. Though it may please the old users, it may put off the new users who may be accustomed to the drag and drop and GUI features offered by other software. However, the icons and dialogues now look more aesthetic and new age.
The dialogues have been further enhanced with customizations and new look features like transparency, auto-hide and docking some of which have been possible because of Windows 2000. The transparency and auto hide controls are particularly useful making the workflow much easier. In the earlier versions the dialogues floating around the interface could be a menace, now, the auto-hide controls hides the windows when they are not in use and on the other hand even if they are open, the transparency in the palettes makes the images in the background visible when the dialog box is in use.
Another useful addition in the right click panel, besides pan and zoom, is the 3D orbit option that allows tactile 3D viewpoints with perspective views also possible.
There are some good performance boosts and workflow enhancements that mark this release of AutoCAD. In direct performance, we compared the file-sizes produced by both the software. As promised by AutoDesk, there was a significant decrease in file size. The file produced by AutoCAD 2002 was 1.25 MB as against 840 KB in AutoCAD 2004. The time for opening the files was also significantly lower in AutoCAD 2004.
On the workflow performance front, there are a lot of enhancements in the multi-line text tool. The user can now create indents and tabs in the frameless editor that makes it easier to correctly align text for tables and numbered lists. The text can also be pasted directly from MS Word with all the formatting and tabs preserved. This is definitively useful for printed architectural plans.
S N A P S H O T
|Features||:||Tabs and indents in multiline editing, external reference notification for multiple users to work on the same drawing, new DWF files, Express viewer to quickly view and print DWF files|
|Pros||:||Smaller file sizes, faster files opening, more security, good enhancements in the multi-line text tool|
|Cons||:||Limited support for earlier file types, doesn’t run on Win 9x systems|
|Contact||:||Tech Pacific, Mumbai|
The user can now use true colors as line colors or in hatching. In the previous version, it was only restricted to 256 colors. The undo command also gets a makeover with the ability to do undo and redo of multiple actions at once. Gradient fills is also an interesting option for presentation of plans which formerly had to be taken to Photoshop for such work.
The software supports enhanced security options with the concept of digital signatures. This helps the user know if a drawing was tampered. If this is not enough, the user can now password-protect the files too. AutoCAD also supports the preview of files as icons in Windows Explorer. This makes the workflow faster.
On the licensing front, the Network Licensing Manager now sports a license-borrowing feature, which provides the ability for a network license to be "borrowed" by a user for a limited amount of time and returned to the server when they reconnect to the network.
It is a good upgrade from the older versions offering better performance, smaller file sizes and some good workflow enhancements. On the other hand, it may put off people who have been using R14 or earlier versions as there is no upgrade option available for them.